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The Experience Of Going to a Home Match at Everton’s Goodison Park: The Heart of English Football

heart of english football1 The Experience Of Going to a Home Match at Evertons Goodison Park: The Heart of English Football

I still get those butterflies when I wake up on a match day. I remember going to my first ever game about twenty years ago and being gripped with anticipation and excitement. That feeling has never changed as I’ve grown older.

This past Sunday morning was no different, even though I was many miles away from home in the picturesque northern city of York. My girlfriend and I were visiting friends for the weekend, but I had made plans to get back to Liverpool in time for the Everton game at Sunday lunchtime.

So we set off early doors and I met my dad in Liverpool for 1pm, just half an hour before kick-off. Usually, we head to the ground earlier and meet some friends at a pub North of Goodison Park. But we were dropped off near Anfield and walked through Stanley Park (that separates Anfield and Goodison; click here for an aerial view) towards the blue side of the divide.

Those familiar sounds and smells greet you as you close in on the stadium; in many respects, they’re the very essence of football. You smell the onions from the burger vans and the scent of salt and vinegar emanating from the chip shop. You hear the heckling of the bloke selling the ‘Golden Goal’ coupons  (“better value than Andy Carroll” and “offers bigger than Phil Thompson’s nose” according to him). You make out the cries of street vendors promoting their merchandise (“Hats, scarves and badges!” is a shout synonymous with one seller). Best of all, you hear the steady hum of the match-goers; all chatting and speculating about the ninety minutes ahead.

Those impressions on the senses never get tiresome. They grow on you.

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Goodison Road fills up ahead of kick-off

Despite initially looking as though we were going to be running late, we made it into the ground uncharacteristically early; about fifteen minutes before kick-off.

Often, mainly when in the pub before the game, we can get a little too involved in our pre-match chatter before realizing it’s five minutes until kick-off! Plus, getting a drink in the ground is much more hassle and much more expensive than getting one in a nearby boozer.

But we were in early this week, so I got a couple of extortionately priced beers (£3.80/$6.10 a pint!) and talk turned to Everton. It was wholly positive in the main, as a win here would see the team jump five places up the table and into second place. In the same breath, there was a lot of discussion regarding the calibre of the opposition, as Tottenham have also started the season in understatedly impressive fashion.

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Underneath the stand in the Gwladys Street end

Talk ceased as we heard the opening drum beats of the Z-Cars theme from the concourse and made our way up to our seats. With it being Everton’s last home game before November 11, the players and supporters observed a poignant one minute silence for Remembrance Day.

But one blast on the referee’s whistle, and thoughts turned to football. The sun peeked out from behind a cloud, the Gwladys Street end roared, and the match was underway. The Spurs fans, lambasted for their efforts a week ago against Hull, were also in fine voice. This is what it’s all about!

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The sun comes out as the players observe a minute’s silence

In the first half, Tottenham played Everton off the park. They passed the ball with incisiveness, their movement was more fluid, their tackling was stronger and their pressing was sharper. They looked an excellent side and their disciplined shape strangled any Everton attacks with consummate ease. Subsequently, the Toffees were camped in their own area for much of the opening stages. But Spurs failed to make their dominance tell, wasting some great positions and squandering a couple of excellent chances.

The Toffees came out and performed better in the second period, but they too struggled to make any kind of pressure tell. Romelu Lukaku couldn’t really get into the game and the Everton midfield had little forward thrust until the introduction of Ross Barkley. A 0-0 draw was ultimately a fair reflection of a game where both defenses dominated.

There were two major talking points in the game that got some supporters particularly riled. The first being the penalty appeal on Seamus Coleman. The Irish international was felled in the box, but immediately got back to his feet in an attempt to get a shot off. He was fouled, but his honesty looked to have made the referee’s mind up and he waved away the Everton appeals.

We all criticise players for going down easily, but when you see instances like this, is it any wonder why? If Coleman had fallen to the ground with a little more flamboyancy and stayed down he would have no doubt been awarded a penalty. The referee got that decision badly wrong and honest players watching that must have thought “why do I bother?”

The second major incident was Hugo Lloris being knocked unconscious by Lukaku’s stray knee. The keeper initially looked set to come off, but there was suddenly much deliberation and confusion about whether or not he was going to stay on! The referee had no clue how to handle things and the situation quickly became farcical. Lloris was straining to get back on, whereas Michael Dawson and referee Kevin Friend were stopping him; it was all a bit chaotic.

The whole scenario has given way to a discussion about whether or not players should be allowed to play after being knocked unconscious. It seems a bit of a manufactured debate in the wake of a pretty dull game in all honesty. Let’s not forget, Lukaku himself was knocked out after scoring the winning goal for Everton against West Ham, but because that was a cracker of a game, this whole issue wasn’t mentioned once.

At the end of the day, if the team doctor gives the player the go-ahead to play-on, is there really an issue? Who knows better than a medical professional? Certainly not other players and certainly not the referee.

Anyway, much to my dissatisfaction, Lloris made a couple of telling contributions in the latter stages of the game to thwart Everton. Point proven, I suppose!

Next up at Goodison is the Merseyside derby. Look out for my next column on the biggest game of the season in Liverpool and the tension, hostility and passion that accompanies these special occasions.

But what part of the Premier League match day experience would YOU like to know more about? The games themselves? Pre-match build-up? The stadiums? The atmosphere?

Let me know and I’ll do my best to provide a thorough insight! Leave a message in the comments section or follow me on Twitter @MattJFootball

About Matt Jones

Matt has been writing for World Soccer Talk for more than two years, contributing pieces about myriad topics and regularly lending his voice to the podcast. Matt has covered games live for the website from a host of venues, including Wembley, London and the ANZ Stadium, Sydney. He is a regular at Goodison Park where he watches his beloved Everton, but harbours an unyielding interest in all aspects of European soccer. You can get in touch with Matt via e-mail at mattjones@worldsoccertalk.com or on Twitter @MattJFootball
View all posts by Matt Jones →

11 Responses to The Experience Of Going to a Home Match at Everton’s Goodison Park: The Heart of English Football

  1. Emmett says:

    Best column on the site. Love the pictures of the stadium and info about the gameday experience and atmosphere. I’m fascinated by how the stadiums are tucked right in the middle of the town.(Those houses must be pretty darn expensive) Don’t see that here in the US. Looking forward to the next one, especially now that it is Everton-Liverpool.

    • Christopher Harris says:

      Thanks Emmett for the feedback. Sometimes when writers don’t get any feedback (positive or negative) from the readers, it’s difficult for them to tell whether or not the pieces are being appreciated it or not. So thank you for your kind comments. It’s one of my favorite columns on the site, too. I’m living vicariously through Matt!

  2. Dust says:

    “In the first half, Tottenham played Everton off the park. They passed the ball with incisiveness, their movement was more fluid, their tackling was stronger and their pressing was sharper. They looked an excellent side and their disciplined shape strangled any Everton attacks with consummate ease. Subsequently, the Toffees were camped in their own area for much of the opening stages. But Spurs failed to make their dominance tell, wasting some great positions and squandering a couple of excellent chances.

    The Toffees came out and performed better in the second period, but they too struggled to make any kind of pressure tell. Romelu Lukaku couldn’t really get into the game and the Everton midfield had little forward thrust until the introduction of Ross Barkley. A 0-0 draw was ultimately a fair reflection of a game where both defenses dominated.”

    Thank goodness I couldn’t agree with these two paragraphs more.

    How someone at the game (a clearly passionate Everton fan) and someone 5000 miles away watching on TV come to the same conclusion of the performance is not surprising,

    That said, the “analysis” on the WST pod however doesn’t come close to being anywhere close to this and again makes me wonder did they even watch the game or just MOTD 2 highlights…lol..oh well.

    When I saw Barkley wasn’t playing it drew a smile, he was far more likely to cause issues for spurs in that game than Osman ever would. How Paulinho & Lennon didn’t put us 1-0 up in the first half is beyond any real logic.

    Also, finally I see an article pointing out the incident with lukaku v west ham and how it was ignored by the press, I don’t think it was because of the quality of the game or the 0-0 result. It’s just that it was AVB and spurs.

    See below for proof that the pias indignation of this incident with Spurs GK is really just more of a strange media focus against AVB, how else do you explain the insane shift in opinion and outrage by these news outlets on concussion?

    (credit user spurfect on the boy hotspur forums for finding and quoting the original articles… I’ve added the url’s)

    ‘Lukaku heading in the winner from a clever Mirallas cross. He was knocked out in doing so but it was West Ham who were out for the count.’ – Independent

    http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/west-ham-united-2-everton-3-match-report-leighton-baines-and-ravel-morrison-entertain-roy-hodgson-while-romelu-lukaku-steals-the-show-8831428.html

    ‘It also provided the platform for Romelu Lukaku to underline his massive potential by completing Everton’s recovery when he headed home the winner four minutes from the end. The loanee from Chelsea was knocked out as he scored and required lengthy on-pitch treatment but recovered to finish the match’ – Telegraph

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/sport/football/competitions/premier-league/10321459/West-Ham-United-2-Everton-3-match-report.html

    ‘Not that Lukaku remembered much about his heroics. He was laid out heading the winner and had to ask physio Richard Evans who had scored’ – Mirror

    http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/match-reports/west-ham-2-3-everton-match-2277915

    Seriously…WTF is that about?

    • Fugi says:

      Seriously…shut up already. You are such a whiner. Who could ever take you seriously? Don’t you remember how indignant you were that Bale wasn’t leaving – moron!

      • Dust says:

        You are a quality person, may your day be an excellent one…. LoL

        • Fugi says:

          LOL – come on, why don’t you throw in some emoticons as well. It will complete your schoolgirl like prose. I remember the time you gave everyone on this site including the authors that their reports on Bale were bs along with their journalism. You’re a fanboy with egg on your face.

  3. Hickorywind says:

    Another great article Matt. As the previous commentator mentioned, the pictures really add to the story. It’s hard to visualize if you’ve never been there (as I haven’t). Keep it up!!

  4. Mike Schaefer says:

    Heading to Goodison from the States to see the Blues take it to the Gunners. I was looking for some info on what to expect for the pregame and found your article, thanks for the read! Do you have any more info on where to go before/after? Thanks again.

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